t h a n k s: To everyone at the Corner, especially River, Lise, Jono, KG and Mel. Merci beaucoup, people!
d e d i c a t e d _ t o: River and Lise.
s p e c i a l _ n o t e: This chapter is dedicated to Minisinoo and Troll Princess.
c h a p t e r _ s e v e n
The next day I went to see Kitty. I didn't really want to, since I'd had more than enough of people to last me a life time at that point, but I'd said I would, so...
Like Miss Munroe has said, she was well considering the circumstances, but the circumstances were not good. They were bad. Very bad. While the school has been under attack, Kitty had phased. For much, much long than she was used to, and when the dust cleared (so to speak), she found herself unable to unphase again.
To put it simply, she was currently a ghost.
And sitting crosslegged inside a glass-cube-thingy, looking miserable.
I tapped on the glass to get her attention. "Hey."
"Alex!" Her face lit up a little.
"Is me," I smiled. "I came to see how you are. And, no, don't bother explaining. Dr. Reyes did all that before she let me come in."
She grinned. "She's very thorough."
"Yeah. And scary." I shuddered exaggeratedly at the memory of those dark, serene, scary eyes.
"She's not so bad when you get to know her." Kitty's voice lowered to a conspiratory whisper. "I've even heard her laugh. Once."
I stared at her in amazement. "You're kidding?"
"Nope. Cross my heart."
Kitty nodded. The smile faded from her face and she looked down.
"Hey. Are you all right?" I put my hand on the glass by her head. "Okay, stupid question considering, but--"
"Yana's dead," she interrupted. "She was just a little kid and now she's dead! Who would - who _could_ - do such a thing? She was only seven years old!"
My jaw dropped. Apparently this attack had been far more severe than I'd imagined. Dead? Hurt maybe, but dead? Hadn't even crossed my mind. "Dead?"
"Yes!" Tears welled up in her eyes. "Yana, and Johnny, and Marie-Ange, and Clarice... They're all dead!"
"Oh my god..."
Her lips quivered. "And... And... I couldn't help them. I couldn't do anything."
"I'm so sorry, Kit. I'm so sorry." I had no idea what to do. Or what to say. Kitty didn't seem to notice. She just kept talking, with tears running down her face. I listened with a sense of incredulity.
"Kit, love, stop crying, yeah?"
I jumped slightly at the sound of Pete Wisdom's voice. I'd been so caught up in what Kitty was telling me, I hadn't even noticed his arrival. Kids killed. And hurt and disappeared. That was bad, right? I mean, of course it was, but it was a bit unreal at the same time. Things like this happened on movies or to other people. Not to people I knew.
I noticed him now. He looked concerned. And looked like he either hadn't slept in days or slept in his clothes. I didn't need to be a genius to figure out why.
Pete patted the glass around Kitty's head. "Please, love? I can't stand seeing you cry."
"Well, I've a bloody good reason, now don't I?" Kitty sniffled angrily, brushing a tear away from her chin.
Pete opened his mouth then shut it again. Seemed like he wasn't any better with tears and stuff than I was. I really wish he would have been.
"Alex, come here." Pete nodded towards a medical thingamajig a bit away from Kitty's glass.
I gave him a puzzled frown, looked at Kitty and followed him. What did he want to talk to me about? As far as I knew, Pete didn't even like me very much. Of course he didn't like _anybody_ very much...
"Miss Munroe wants to talk to you."
Ah. "All right..."
"She's in the waiting room."
I nodded. I started walking towards the waiting room, then hesitated and turned to look at Pete. "Can I ask you something?"
"Sure. I might not answer, but sure, ask away."
"Do you know who Remy is... sleeping with?"
He narrowed his eyes at me. "Why do you want to know?"
"Curiousity. And I know. Was wondering if you did."
"Yeah. I know. Now get yer Chevy Chase away from me, a'right? Remy's me best china, he is." He glared at me. "And I don't like gossiping about me mates."
I frowned at him, then headed off in direction of the waiting room, translating what he'd said in my head. Chevy Chase, face. China, china plate, mate. Heh. And it had been ages since the last time I was in London too.
* * * *
"Don't you forget about me. Don't. Don't you forget about me. As you walk on by, will you call my name? Will you walk away? Will you walk away?"
"Alex! Shut the fuck up, would you?"
I elegantly ignored Rick and kept yowling along with Simple Minds, and two seconds later, Bon Jovi. I like mp3s. It's a wonderful invention. I can get all of my favorite songs on one CD now.
Rick groaned, clasped his hands firmly over his ears and sank down on the floor, giving Mai Lee a desperate look.
"I just can't believe... It was all a lie..." I sang happily, whirling around the room.
Mai Lee grinned widely at Rick, jumped up on her feet and joined in. "No man in the moon, just a big light in the sky."
Rick looked horrified. "I'm in hell."
"Say it isn't so," sang Mai Lee and I.
Rick twisted around and hit the off button on the stereo.
"It's for the best of mankind," Rick explained solemnly. "The world is just not ready for you and Mai Lee singing Bon Jovi." He paused. "And I think the neighbours were gearing up to start banging on the walls and ceiling."
The doorbell rang.
I look sheepishly in that direction. "You might have a point."
"I'm not here," said Mai Lee and looked innocent. "If they say something about hearing two voices, say it's Rick. They'll believe you. He's a reputation for singing."
"I do? Since when?"
"I just can't help falling in love with you," said Mai Lee.
Rick looked stunned. "How did you... Izzy."
I went to get the door before Rick could figure out who'd been a most eager partner in crime when it came to spreading that particular tape.
I opened the door and looked down at Jana's puzzled face. "You're here."
"So it would appear. Want to tell me why I had to rush right over here without even having dinner first? It was lasagne. I might even have eaten it."
"I need your advice on something."
Jana regarded me mutely for a while, blinking at me, then she made her way into my apartment and the livingroom. She looked at Rick and Mai Lee, then pointed towards me. "He," she said. "Has gone off on the deep end. He's bonkers. Gone. The lights are on, but noone's home, if you know what I saying. He just told me he needed _my_ advice on something."
Rick and Mai Lee gave identical mock-gasps and stared at me.
"Oh ha ha ha," I said.
Jana grinned and dropped down into the couch. "So what did you want my advice on?"
"I'll tell you when Iz gets here."
"That could take a while," Rick warned me, glancing at the clock on top of the tv. "He's out on a job."
"Yeah, I know. I caught him on the cell. He says he reckons it won't take long. Something about a hostile interview object."
"You can have those?"
"Yeah, sure. I mean like OJ probably wasn't all that crazy about being interviewed during the trial, but all the journalists wanted to interview him and so," Rick trailed off. "Well, you get the point."
Jana just shook her head and muttered something about lasagna.
Ten minutes later, Iz walked into the livingroom, waving a bag. "Heyah, Alex. I got Black Adder 4, House on Haunted Hill and Oliver Twist -- Oh hi Rick..."
Rick paled and had a look of utter betrayal on his face. "Et tu, Iz? How could you?"
"Oliver Twist," Rick said, heartbroken. "I never thought you'd do such a thing."
"I didn't know you'd be here," Iz said helplessly, putting the bag down on the table and his camera on the floor next to a pile of Robert Jordan books.
"And that's supposed to make it okay?"
Oh yes. Rick has a very big issue with his last name. And consequently that poor, starving orphan he was forced to play in his youth.
Mai Lee looked at Rick and Iz with a mix of worry and amusement on her face. "They going to be all right?"
I nodded. "Sure. After Izzy's groweled a bit. Or extensivly."
Jana rolled her eyes. "Can we get on with it? Please? I have a dinner to get back to."
"Hey, Iz, Rick, want to stop arguing and listen for a second?"
Iz dropped down in the closest chair, moved in it until he was comfortably sprawled and nodded towards me. "Talk."
Rick folded his arms over his chest and sulked.
Jana quieted with her musings of lasagna and Mai Lee stopped fingering my CDs.
"The school's offered me a job as the school counsellor."
Everybody was quiet for a while, then...
"What?" Rick said slowly.
"Cool," said Izzy and stretched. "Go with it."
"But Alex... You don't have any education in that direction," Mai Lee pointed out.
"And you love your job," Jana said, looking puzzled. "You love being a graphic designer."
"What Jana said. And you'd have to be in constant contact with people if you took that job, have you thought about that?" Rick leaned forth. "You _can't_ take that job."
"Yeah, I've thought about all that, but Ororo, she said that I've already been helping. With Jubilee and Remy and..."
"Well, fine, go on helping like that, just don't. Don't take that job, Alex. You'll regret it."
"I think I'll have to agree with Rick," Mai Lee said.
"Hey, if the guy wants to accept that job, we shouldn't stand in his way." Izzy frowned. "Why he'd want to, is beyond me, but."
"But don't you think I owe them to help?" I said helplessly. "I mean, with my powers, I should..."
All four of them stared at me.
"Alex, sweets, love of my life, all around nummy treat, what the hell are you talking about?" Iz straightened up.
"Ororo said... I have a duty to..."
"Oh fuck that!" Rick exploded, jumping out on his feet. "You don't have a duty to do anything at all! What? You think I have a sacred duty to live in the Sahara desert and make water for the poor?"
I was taken aback. "No. Not exactly."
"I can't picture you in Africa as a Red Cross person," Jana said thoughtfully.
"But if I was doing what was for the best of mankind, and not what was best for me, that's exactly what I'd be doing!"
"Well, you can't really make _that_ much water," Izzy pointed out.
Rick glared at him.
"Forget I said anything."
"Ignoring Rick for a second. For the record, you all think I _shouldn't_ take the job?" I looked around for confirmation, feeling relieved. I never really wanted that job in the first place, but Ororo had reasoned it all so... reasonably.
Talk logic to me and I'll follow you to hell and back. Until I've figured out what the heck it was you said.
The four of them looked at me again.
"Your life is all yours to fuck up," Izzy said and leaned back in the chair again, admiring the ceiling. The guy has a thing for ceilings, I swear.
"What Iz said, " Jana said. "Plus, no, I don't think you should take it."
"You'd hate it," Mai Lee noted, her attention caught by the action figures in my book shelf. "When did you get those? Oooh! You have Birds of Prey!"
"Which part of 'hell, no!' are you having problems with?" Rick dropped back down on the floor.
I nodded, frowning. Okay. I liked this. They didn't think I was a selfish bastard for not taking the job as counseller for a bunch of angsty teens, in fact, they were telling me I'd be an idiot to do it. Well, except Iz, but Iz rarely said anything pro or against anything.
I decided I wouldn't take the job. Now... How did I tell Ororo that? I grinned slowly and eyed my friends. Izzy... No. Not after that show he put up yesterday. Jana... Too young. Rick or Mai Lee then. "So..." I said, grinning brightly at Rick and Mai Lee. "Which one of you want to come with me to the school tomorrow as I inform them that I've decided not to take the job?"
"I have a... a... deadline!" Mai Lee said, giving me an equally bright grin in return. She put my Birds of Pray action figures back in my shelf and looked innocent. Pah. She so didn't have a deadline. She had the comicstrips drawn three months in advance. I know. I was watching her draw them.
"I... have..." Rick paused, then looked resigned which was his way of saying that 1, he couldn't be arsed to come up with anything after the Oliver Twist trauma Iz had given him, and 2, he was curious about the school. See, I speak 'rickian' very well. "Nothing at all to do."
"Can we watch Black Adder now?" Izzy said hopefully.
"Lasagna," said Jana and walked zombie-like out of the livingroom. The frontdoor smacked shut seconds later.
* * * *
A pretty, darkhaired girl stepped out of a taxi just as Rick drove up in front of the school's main building. She was wearing a red t-shirt and blue jeans and looking searchingly around. Her eyes landed on Remy who was just coming out of the gym, followed by Evan and Angelo. Her face lit up like a christmas tree. "Remy!"
Remy stopped and glanced in her direction. First he frowned in puzzlement, but then his face cleared and he was running towards her. "Jake!" He stopped in front of her. "It's you, isn't it?"
She grinned. "Of course it's me, you moron."
Remy picked her up and whirled her around, laughing.
"Put me down! Put me down, or else I swear you're going to wake up missing a few bodyparts...!" Judging from the way she was laughing I don't think she meant it very seriously. Remy finally put her down and she straightened her t-shirt. "I hate you, you know."
Remy grinned. I don't think I'd ever seen him that happy before. "I know you do. So. What are you doing here? And looking like this?"
Rick tugged at the sleeve of my coat. "Try and curb your voyouristic tendencies long enough for us to tell what's her name of your decision, yes?"
"Shh," I said, wondering who the girl was. Remy'd called her Jake... Short for Jacqueline, maybe. Or Jacobine.
Jake rolled her eyes. "Oh it's dad's idea. You know how he gets. Anyhow, I'm going to be attending this school for a year or so. Dad wants me to take those... eh... special courses they provide."
Remy arched his eyebrows. "Looking like that?"
"Yes," Jake said darkly.
"What in the world did you do to deserve that?"
Rick started pulling me towards the door. "We're going now."
I sighed regretfully, knowing I couldn't escape the inevitable forever, and let Rick push me in through the door. Just before I was out of earshot, I heard Remy introducing Jake to Evan Starsmore and Angelo Espinosa.
"Guys, this is Jak--"
"Jackie," Jake, I mean, Jackie interrupted. "I've known this guy since we were both in diapers. I have _tons_ of embarrassing stories to tell. Have he told you about that time he tried to nick Mastiff the fence's jewelry and got caught by Mastiff's two year old daughter who developed the biggest crush on him yet?"
* * * *
Insultingly enough, Ororo didn't seem devastated by me telling her I wasn't going to join the school staff. In fact, if I wasn't completely mistaken, she had already contacted an empath named Mickey Canté and offered him the job. She didn't exactly say that but she implied it heavily. Very heavily. Sort of the same way as Logan implied things and that was a hair away from being hit over the head with a two by four.
About two weeks later, it turned out I'd been right (I rather like that), as yet another taxi drove up in front of the school building. Or, um, what was left of it. They were still in the process of rebuilding it after the attack. Some of those who were hurt in the attack were already bouncing about the place, but Kitty was still locked up in that glass-thingy. She had people to talk to though. A skinny Russian kid I had somehow been roped into taking to visit Declan, Penn and Louise as soon as Dr. Grey and Dr. McCoy finished their testing. Apparently the kid was an aspiring artist himself. And of course, Pete was down there with her as much as he could.
I finally got to meet the legendary Dr. Grey, by the way. Beautiful (most of the people at the school were, for some odd reason. I was starting to get used to it), and in a hurry. Dr. McCoy was... well. Pretty much like a really smart cookie monster with constant munchies actually. Kitty told me Bobby used to sneak down and drag Dr. McCoy with him for midnight Twinkie runs. Whatever the heck that was.
Out of the taxi stepped one of the tallest people I've ever seen. I mean, I was staring out of the window on second floor, and I could already tell that he was damn high. How he looked... Try to imagine a Native American with red Irish colouring and you're close. Shoulder-lenght bright red hair (More carrot than Dr. Grey if you know what I mean), pale blue eyes, eagle nose, freckles and a penchant for Bayliss.
No, I didn't know that as I watched him get out of the taxi. I found out about it later when Mickey came to 'bond with the other empath on campus'. I tried pointing out that I wasn't an empath exactly and discovered that Mickey had an amazing ability to ignore whatever I was saying on behalf of what ever idea was in his head at the moment.
Iz and Mickey hated each other on sight. Of course, Mickey chose to tag along to the Corner with me in the middle of Iz' flamer-phase (He gets them occasionally when he feels guilty about not being 'gay enough'. I love the guy to bits, but he's just down right weird at times) and his own Sioux-Mystic-phase (Which is basically him being guilty for not being 'Sioux enough'), so perhaps it shouldn't come as a great big shock.
I think they saw their own (presumed) inadequacies in the other, or something.
Mickey's the shrink, okay? Not me. Anyway. Iz hated Mickey's guts. Rick was at that time too busy with fixing the mess his assisstants had managed to create during his sabbatical, and probably wouldn't have cared if Mickey was the new leader of the FOH (Friends of Humanity. Bunch of postering jerks I'd cross the street to avoid). Mai Lee met him maybe twice and Jana resented him for having redder hair than she had.
That one trip to the Corner was enough for Mickey. The place just wasn't him.
I think, maybe, he was looking for a friend in me, but I just couldn't be that friend. We didn't share any interests and our personalities didn't click at all. We became really good colleagues, though.
Mickey was an empath. And the new school shrink. Two things that together spelled, in my opinion, utter madness. Granted, unlike me, he could actually control his powers and stay shielded from people, but, come on! This was Xavier's! Where the secrets were many and the angst level hit the ceiling!
Mickey shrugged when I pointed it out to him. "Yeah, but I'm really good at keeping my shields up at all times."
I gave him a disbelieving look. "Ignoring for a moment that you sound like the Enterprise personified, are you trying to tell me you've got emotional shields of adamantium or something?"
Mickey grinned at the comparison. "Something like that. Hey, you ever tried to shield out secrets?"
I frowned at him. "What do you mean?"
"Like, have you ever tried to touch someone and block out the secrets they give you?"
"Oh. Kind of like with you and feelings?" I shook my head. "No, doesn't work. I mean, I've tried, but the only thing that stops it is familiarity. I can touch Iz just fine as long as he doesn't aquire some new deep, dark secret. Same goes for Rick and Mai Lee."
Mickey looked thoughtful. "Huh. Maybe I could help..."
"I don't think so." I frowned again. "Or I guess you could. But we don't have the same power, remember? You can tell _how_ people feel, while I'm more on the _why_ side of things."
"Yes, true. I think I'm going to have a talk with Professor Xavier and see what he can tell me about your mutation and then maybe I can create some sort of training program for helping you create some sort of shielding..." Mickey was deeply into his own brilliant planning.
I sighed. Mai Lee and Kitty. They were normal. Why couldn't I have lunch with them every day instead? "Mickey... Mickey!"
Mickey gave me a surprised look. "What?"
"You don't have to do all that. I've had 13 years to get used to this, you know. And you're here to help the kidlets, not me," I reminded him. Also, rigorous training programs really isn't my thing, but I figured mentioning it to Mickey probably wouldn't help. I strongly suspected he's one third Irish, one third Sioux and one third bulldozer.
"Don't you want me to help?" Mickey looked hurt.
"It's not that, exactly... It's just... Like I said, I've had my powers for 13 years now. I know how they work." I grinned wryly. "Yeah, okay, the headaches, but I'm used to them too, and they're usually not that bad."
"Oh yeah, that reminds me, I've been thinking about it and I think the headaches have a psychological origin, and not actually necessary for your powers to work."
I blinked at him. "Huh?"
"I think I might be able to get rid of your headaches..." Mickey said slowly.
I looked incredulously and hopefully over at him. I might be used to the headaches but that didn't mean I liked them particulary much. "You think?"
"I think," Mickey nodded. He looked up at the clock. "Oh damn. I'm going to be late for my appointment." He got up from his chair and grabbed his coffee. "I'll talk to you later, okay?"
Later turned out being two days later, which gave me plenty of time to fret. And accidentally overhear an arguement.
"...I would, but it's not up to me!"
"No, it's up to her, isn't it? For chrissake, Remy, why won't you be honest with me and tell me--"
"Johnny, shut up." Pause. Sigh. "You're just going to have to trust me."
"I'm fucking trying, but I'm telling you, it's not easy when she's all over you all the bloody time."
Dry chuckle. "Believe me, Johnny, Jackie has absolutely no interest in me what so ever. She just likes to make me uncomfortable."
"Yeah, you looked real uncomfortable yesterday in the cantina..."
Bewildered. "Yesterday in the cantina? ...Oh. With the banana... Yeah, well. Jack's got a very odd sense of humour."
"I can't tell you... I mean, Jackie would kill me if I did, so I can't, but if you want to. To. You know. Be a couple, like. I guess I could. If you want..." Remy trailed off awkwardly.
"I... I want," St. John said so quietly I almost couldn't hear him. "But. I don't think I can. Not yet, anyway."
"Yeah. I understand. I just thought."
I oh so subtly slinked away as John and Remy closed in on my position around the corner. They both might be aware of that they couldn't hide anything from me, but I really didn't see any point in letting them know I'd been eavesdropping on them. Unintentional as it might've been.
When I walked into the cantina, Mickey was sitting at our regular table, downing a jug of coffee and waiting impatiently. "Where have you been?"
I blinked at him and sat down. "'Scuse me?"
"I wanted to talk to you about your headaches, remember? I have..." He glanced over at the watch on the wall. "About fifteen minutes. Talk here or at my office? Makes no difference to me."
"I'm hungry. Here," I said decisivly. I still didn't think there was anything he could do to get rid of the headaches, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to listen to him. As Rick said, what's the harm? I won't repeat what Izzy said.
Mickey nodded. "Okay. Here, have a..." He paused and looked down at his plate. "...I'm not entirely sure what it is, actually, but it doesn't taste all that bad. It's probably not poisonous, even if I don't think that colour can be found in nature."
I grabbed the plate, avoided looking at the food and focused on Mickey instead. I liked his nose. "Ta, mate."
He gave me a 'you're weird' look, then launched into his explaination of the hows and whys of my headaches.
It all boiled down to, I found out, after patiently asking Mickey to rephrase in English a few times, that I didn't really _want_ to know other people's secrets and therefor resisted when my powers kicked in. Apparently this messed my head up and I got headaches.
Made an odd kind of sense, actually.
But I didn't see how it helped all that much. Wasn't like I was suddenly going to embrace knowing the secrets of all that came in contact with me. I told him as much.
He gave me an exasperated look. I got the hint. I wasn't fully appreciating his brilliance. Shame on me.
"Not that I don't appreciate you going through all this trouble to figure it out and all, but I really don't understand how it'll help me to know _why_ I get the headaches when I can't get rid of 'em anyway."
"Well, I'm still working on that."
I finished Mickey's lunch and went back to the computer room while shaking my head. Mickey was a bit too... enthusiastic sometimes.
I'd see it before I believed it, in other words.